Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Mike McDaniel ‘encouraged’ about Trey Sermon’s injury progress, addresses RB situation for Sunday

Sep 23, 2021 at 3:25 PM--

Which players line up at running back for the San Francisco 49ers against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night is something that remains to be seen, but the 49ers are holding out hope that one of them will be rookie Trey Sermon, who is among a number of players currently battling injury at the position.

Sermon is in the league's concussion protocol due to a hit he took during his lone carry in the 49ers' 17-11 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on September 19 but has seemingly been showing positive signs of recovery during practice this week. The team's offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel briefly discussed Sermon's status with reporters after practice on Thursday, saying that Sermon is trending upward at the moment but that the 49ers will need to continue to prepare as if he won't clear concussion protocol.

"I've been encouraged in terms of talking to him and he feels good, but again, it's a protocol," McDaniel said. "So, as a coach, you have to prepare. You can't be like, 'Oh well, we thought he was going to play.' So you're encouraged by it but you approach it like he's not going to play because that's the worst case scenario and you move on from there."

With Raheem Mostert (knee) out for the year, Jeff Wilson (knee) out for at least another month, JaMycal Hasty (ankle) out for multiple games, and rookie Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) uncertain for this week's game, the 49ers could be forced to play one or more running backs against the Packers who were not even with the team at the start of the season. It's certainly not an ideal situation, but it's one the 49ers are preparing to move forward with, and McDaniel expects everyone to do their part to make sure the running game gets the job done Sunday night (8:20 p.m. ET/5:20 p.m. PT, NBC).

"The biggest thing is that we have a group of men -- ten other players, including the quarterback -- that are also responsible for running the football as well," McDaniel said. "So, you make sure that everything's tight and everyone's comfortable doing what they do. You don't really approach it like, 'Hey, we can't.' We're a professional football team and we have an organization with a great personnel department that gives us talented players. Our job is to use running backs to run. That's really all we really look at."

One recently-signed running back who could be forced into action Sunday night is Jacques Patrick (6-2, 234), who was added from the Cincinnati Bengals' practice squad earlier this week. The 24-year-old Patrick played four years of college ball at Florida State and was also a part of the Bengals' practice squad in 2020, but his next NFL regular season carry will be his first. The 49ers have been doing what they can since Tuesday to get Patrick ready for action against the Packers.

"There's a lot of offense, a lot of plays, so there's a lot of get up to speed in the process," McDaniel said. "There's some carryover with the scheme that they do in Cincinnati in terms of the run plays specifically. It hasn't been starting from square one, but again, it's learning a new language. The good thing about our offense is you can kind of compartmentalize portions of it, learn what you need to learn, and there's no shortcut. There's been a lot of hours worked by [running backs coach] Bobby Turner and him putting in. We've got a couple new guys and that's kind of the case for everybody. It's been fun and it's just opportunities to coach."

The 49ers also have a veteran available in fourth-year back Trenton Cannon, who saw some time on offense and special teams against the Eagles after being claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens on September 14, and veteran Chris Thompson, who was added to the practice squad on Wednesday. If the newer additions are forced to make a large number of carries on Sunday night, McDaniel says it'll be on the coaches to put those running backs in a position where they can succeed and aren't overwhelmed.

"There's a part of just preparing what you can call and what you cannot call with certain people because again, it's a short time span from when they got in the building," McDaniel said. "So you want them to operate full speed and be fair to them and let them play fast. So you think through it, make sure that schematically you don't do anything that challenges their brain too much because their job is to carry a football and not get tackled, and it's hard to do that when you're thinking too much."

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